After independence, the Constitution of India with its Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy gave a new direction to law reform geared to the needs of a democratic legal order in a plural society. Though the Constitution stipulated the continuation of pre-Constitution Laws (Article 372) till they are amended or repealed, there had been demands in Parliament and outside for establishing a Central Law Commission to recommend revision and updating of the inherited laws to serve the changing needs of the country. The Government of India reacted favourably and established the First Law Commission of Independent India in 1955 with the then Attorney-General of India, Mr. M. C. Setalvad, as its Chairman.
THE FUNCTION OF LAW FUNCTIONThe Commission's regular staff consists of about a dozen research personnel of different ranks and varied experiences. A small group of secretarial staff looks after the administration side of the Commission's operations.
Basically the projects undertaken by the Commission are initiated in the Commission's meetings which take place frequently. Priorities are discussed, topics are identified and preparatory work is assigned to each member of the Commission. Depending upon the nature and scope of the topic, different methodologies for collection of data and research are adopted keeping the scope of the proposal for reform in mind.
Discussion at Commission meetings during this period helps not only in articulating the issues and focussing the research, but also evolving a consensus among members of the Commission. What emerges out of this preparatory work in the Commission is usually a working paper outlining the problem and suggesting matters deserving reform. The paper is then sent out for circulation in the public and concerned interest groups with a view to eliciting reactions and suggestions. Usually a carefully prepared questionnaire is also sent with the document.
The Law Commission has been anxious to ensure that the widest section of people are consulted in formulating proposals for law reforms. In this process, partnerships are established with professional bodies and academic institutions. Seminars and workshops are organized in different parts of the country to elicit critical opinion on proposed strategies for reform.
Once the data and informed views are assembled, the Commission's staff evaluates them and organizes the information for appropriate introduction in the report which is written either by the Member-Secretary or one of the Members or the Chairman of the Commission. It is then subjected to close scrutiny by the full Commission in prolonged meetings. Once the Report and summary are finalized, the Commission may decide to prepare a draft amendment or a new bill which may be appended to its report. Thereafter, the final report is forwarded to the Government.
It is obvious that the success of the Commission's work in law reforms is dependent upon its capacity to assemble the widest possible inputs from the public and concerned interest groups. The Commission is constantly on the look out for strategies to accomplish this goal within the limited resources available to it. In this regard the media plays an important role which the Commission proposes to tap more frequently than before The Nineteenth Law Commission was constituted through a Government order with effect from September 1, 2009. It will have a three-year term ending August 31, 2012. The Commission comprises of the following:-
Shri Justice P. V. Reddi
Shri Amarjit Singh
former Additional Solicitor General of India.
Shri Justice Shiv Kumar Sharma
former Judge of Rajasthan High Court.
Dr. Brahm A. Agrawal
MEMBER SECRETARY & SECRETARY TO THE GOVT. OF INDIA
The Terms of Reference of the Nineteenth Law Commission are as follows:-
A. Review/Repeal of obsolete laws:
i. To identify laws which are no longer needed or relevant and can be immediately repealed.
ii. To identify laws which are in harmony with the existing climate of economic liberalization which need no change.
iii. To identify laws which require changes or amendments and to make suggestions for their amendment.
iv. To consider in a wider perspective the suggestions for revision/amendment given by Expert Groups in various Ministries/Departments with a view to coordinating and harmonizing them.
v. To consider references made to it by Ministries/Departments in respect of legislation having bearing on the working of more than one Ministry/Department.
vi. To suggest suitable measures for quick redressal of citizens grievances, in the field of law.
B. Law and Poverty
i. To examine the Law which affect the poor and carry out post-audit for socio-economic legislation.
ii. To take all such measures as may be necessary to harness law and the legal process in the service of the poor.
C. To keep under review the system of judicial administration to ensure that it is responsive to the reasonable demands of the times and in particular to secure: -
i. Elimination of delays, speedy clearance of arrears and reduction in costs so as to secure quick and economical disposal of cases without affecting the cardinal principle that decisions should be just and fair.
ii. Simplification of procedure to reduce and eliminate technicalities and devices for delay so that it operates not as an end in itself but as a means of achieving justice.
iii. Improvement of standards of all concerned with the administration of justice.
D. To examine the existing laws in the light of Directive Principles of State Policy and to suggest ways of improvement and reform and also to suggest such legislation as might be necessary to implement the Directive Principles and to attain the objective set out in the Preamble to the Constitution.
E. To examine the existing laws with a view to promoting gender equality and suggesting amendments thereto.
F. To revise the Central Acts of General Importance so as to simplify them and to remove anomalies, ambiguities and inequities.
G. To recommend to the Government measure for bringing the statute book up-to-date by repealing obsolete laws and enactments or parts thereof which have outlived their utility.
H. To consider and to convey to the Government its views on any subject relating to law and judicial administration that may be referred to it by the Government through Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs).
I. To consider the requests for providing research to any foreign countries as may be referred to it by the Government through Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs).
J. To examine the impact of globalization on food security, unemployment and recommend measures for the protection of the interests of the marginalized.
The Reports of the Law Commission are considered by the Ministry of Law in consultation with the concerned administrative Ministries and are submitted to Parliament from time to time. They are cited in Courts, in academic and public discourses and are acted upon by concerned Government Departments depending on the Government's recommendations.